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New Grub Street


Published January 10, 2010


LibriVox recording of New Grub Street by George Gissing

The story deals with the literary world that Gissing himself had experienced. Its title refers to the London street, Grub Street, which in the 18th century became synomynous with hack literature; as an institution, Grub Street itself no longer existed in Gissing's time. Its two central characters are a sharply contrasted pair of writers:
Edwin Reardon, a novelist of some talent but limited commercial prospects, and a shy, cerebral man; and Jasper Milvain, a young journalist, hard-working and capable of generosity, but cynical and unscrupulous about writing and its purpose in the modern (i.e. late Victorian) world.(Summary from Wikipedia)

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Source Librivox recording of a public-domain text
Run time 19:34:34

Reviews

Reviewer: dahszil - - May 10, 2015
Subject: It is a shame that Edwin Reardon...
could not just throw it all up and go into a da da, absurdist, primal scream, et al natural reaction to stress(a natural therapy that occurs when stress overcomes one). The post ww1 da da and absurdist movement in art and literature, rather than seeing bizarre behavior as a serious mental illnes, it was a coping mechanism that saved on from harming themselves or others. And of course the fear of mere oddness is still against or shallow and ignorant social mores made into law to enforce our fears of nothing really.


One would be in error to think that Gissing writes without sympathy. His realism or naturalism, is one that reveals how wealth disparity corrupts all of society. The upper middle class exploit the middle class, the middle class the lower class, and the lower class can only suffer or take out their anger out on each other. Only the polyanna and Horatio Alger myth believers, sadly the mainstream of society, will believe it is a lack of effort. The suffering of the Beethovans of the world who overcome abuse, poverty and even the lack of the most important of the 5 senses pertaining to their work leads to a triumph over adversity, are as rare as the sighting of a new comet.

More than anything else this is a book about wealth disparity.

Too many readers forget the short off the cuff sympathetic(yet seemingly cynical) remarks made by Gissing through his characters such as in...money is the root of all good until a new sane economy comes into being...One also forgets that Gissing, although rejected it at the end of his life, was a socialist.


Another fine collaborative. good team work readers! special thanks to Alan Brown and Jessi. Alan i love your soft spoken, but subtly emotional when need be voice. You remind me of Harry Belafonte or a Tony Bennet speaking, soft, almost whispery, but masculine. I would suggest a Cardioid microphone which gets rid of the echo. although perhaps there is a free software online line and no need to change from your i assume omnidirectional mic like most of us get with out computers. Jessi I loved your foreign accent(German?). Don't let any of the petty and trivial review critics get you down. its usually fellow americans like me who can only speak americanese, lol. and thanks to all the reader volunteers, librivox and Internet Archive, and underwriters.
Reviewer: susan smith nash - - August 4, 2014
Subject: Extreme Naturalism / Nihilism for the "Ignobly Decent"
Probably Gissing’s most well-known and most highly-regarded novel is the story of several professional writers in 1880s London. Theirs is a world of genteel poverty, health-ruining work, bitter literary feuds, and dreams of becoming either a famous writer or an influential tastemaker or critic as the editor of an influential journal.

In highly naturalistic fashion, Gissing explores within the unfolding of overlapping lives, how writers and their families endeavor to transcend poverty and uncertainty, and as they do so, they are faced with decision points. Some suffer because they refuse to compromise, and other suffer because they do compromise and attempt to marry for money and engage in duplicitous self-promotion and careerism. Gissing does not condemn even the most rascally or degenerate of his characters because he maintains that poverty is the force that degrades people and compels demoralizing choices.

There is no meritorious final reward for those who write works of real literary value. Instead, literature is commercialized, and success rests more on the behaviors of the buyers, whether they be individuals or public lending libraries.

While this state of affairs seems less than remarkable to the reader of the 21st century, the mass production of print and the selling of ads, coupled with a vast expansion of a public education resulting in a wider reading public, resulted in dramatic changes in society. Because of the changes in society and technology, it was possible to earn a living as a writer, but it was often precarious at best, due to the ever-shifting tastes of the public, the format of the printed works, and the vested interests of critics and taste-makers.

In the end, the abstemious and idealistic writer, Reardon, dies with what looks a lot like a terminal case of writer’s block. The literary critic, Albert Yule, and his daughter turned research assistant and amanuensis, goes blind and have mad with paranoia, resentment, and general bile. The starving innovator, Harold Biffen, seeks to explore a new sub-genre of realism that profiles the “ignobly decent” in his great work, Mr. Baily, Grocer. A complete commercial flop, the profoundly discouraged Biffen ultimately commits suicide by taking poison. The Machiavellian writer and aspiring critic / editor Jasper Millvain succeeds, as does Reardon’s widow, Amy, who marries Jasper after her husband’s death.

In New Grub Street, the large cast of characters have interweaving, complex lives, as they attempt immortality through writing. Gissing suggests that their goals are ultimately nihilistic, for the same technology which makes possible mass production and mass distribution of published works also makes them invisible in the ever intensifying tides and surges of new waves of printed paper, much of which is never read.
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